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July 09, 2013

Elliot Spitzer Cries n' Stuff

Television moments. Who the hell cares?

On Twitter -- at that link, at Twitchy -- there's a lot of debate over whether his tears are real or not. Conservatives think he's faking; liberals, of course, are quite sure that we "can't know his heart" and can't tell if his tears are real (with the stealth suggestion that if we can't know his heart we have to assume the question in his favor).

But who cares either way? I happen to think he really got misty. So what? Even hardened criminals will cry on occasion as they wallow in self-pity. Crying (or nearly crying) in response to major embarrassment in front of many people is a inborn response. Even psychopaths and sociopaths have the ability to feel their own pain.

I'm not saying Spitzer is either of those. (Only his victims can tell us that.) I'm just saying to credit this as saying anything at all about his sincerity or his character or his changes is asinine.

Elliot Spitzer is sad that his once-glittering career was derailed by a serious prostitution scandal and that he was publicly humiliated in front of the world. Who would not be?

Crying over someone else's misfortune does tell us something about the crier -- that he has a level of empathy for others. Crying about one's own misfortune tells us nothing except that one still has a heartbeat and a functioning limbic system.

We should sooner argue about whether or not Spitzer was breathing and whether or not his cells were successfully employing the Krebs cycle.

This is part of the thesis of that book I read about Television Culture -- television invites, or perhaps demands, a focus on the trivial. And then we argue over the trivial, because that's what television has put on our intellectual menu for the day.

And self-pity and embarrassment is not the same as contrition and certainly not the same as redemption. But television does things simply, and has taught us that the simple thing (crying on TV) is equal to the difficult things (contrition and redemption).

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posted by Ace at 01:07 PM

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